Without fail, every person who has picked up the Pixel 2 XL has said virtually the same thing: “It feels like it’s made out of plastic.” I said it myself when I first held it. Of course, neither the Pixel 2 nor the Pixel 2 XL are made out of plastic. They’re made out of Gorilla Glass and aluminum, just like every other high-end phone these days.
But Google coated all that aluminum with a textured finish that hides most of the antenna lines and also makes the phones easier to grip. Google took what could have been a visually impressive design and covered it up in the name of ergonomics. It literally made a metal phone feel like a plastic one. It chose function over form.
The Pixel 2 has many, many things going for it. Were it not for a few problems — the screen, the slightly inelegant design, and (yes) the lack of a headphone jack — it might have received the highest score we’ve ever given a phone. As it is, it’s a great phone, but not quite a home run.
At nearly every turn, with both the hardware and the software, Google made that design decision again and again [choosing function over form]. There have been a few times when I wish the company had risked a little more razzamatazz, but mostly I’ve been appreciating the focus on improving the basics.
I find it difficult to make sweeping statements like “This is the best phone out there, period,” because such generalizations are prone to be wrong for a lot of people. That said, I can safely say the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are the best Android phones I’ve used all year (and I’ve used a lot of them). While I don’t agree with all of Google’s choices, something special is bound to happen when a company as smart as Google takes such strict control over how its vision of smartphones should be realized.
Every single animation goes off without a hitch. Scrolling is flawless. There are additional, exclusive animations on the home screen like bounce scrolling and folder opening that add to the buttery smooth feel. It’s amazing—head and shoulders above every other Android phone out there.
With the Pixel, you get an iPhone-like update experience, a cohesive software package, and super fast UI performance. It offers a harmonious device with a single, cohesive design language and none of the junk that slows your phone down. In 2017, that’s enough to merit the title of “Best Android phone.”
Last year, I called the original Pixel the best phone on the planet. I’m hesitant to do so again, only because the iPhone X comes out in two weeks. (I’ll update this review when that happens.) Here’s what I can say for sure, right here and right now: There’s no better Android phone, anywhere, than the Pixel 2. Especially that black and white Pixel 2 XL. I mean, have you seen that thing? Come on.
1) The Pixel 2 XL screen made by LG is sub-par compared to the Pixel 2 screen made by Samsung. The issues people are complain about include subdued colours (which I prefer), off-axis colour imbalances (which is not such a big deal since you view the phone head-on) and reported issues of burn-in (which is a huge problem), the latter of which is being reportedly fixed in a software update.
2) Experience-wise, best Android phone, hands-down.
3) I wondered how they managed to remove the antenna bands. Turns out they didn’t, it’s simply hidden by a soft-touch layer. And I worry it behaves like most soft-touch layers i.e. starts to peel off after a couple of years (unless you use a cover).
4) Despite Google’s claim to the contrary, the two Pixels are not identical. One has a better ratio of screen estate and battery life, while the other has a better screen. Worse yet, there’s no clear winner.
5) The industrial design has started to grow on me. I do think Google is not there to create the most ‘elegant’ design but more akin to refined playfulness. Plus, there’s much more to look forward to for next year after they acqui-hired a sizeable chunk of HTC.